Posts Tagged ‘Obama’

Because it’s been too long since the last one.

  • As regular readers will know, I’m incredibly passionate about the Orwellian freakishness that is the health insurance mandate in Obamacare.  Unfortunately, it’s so wrong on so many levels, it’s sometimes hard to explain why without being, well, verbose (ahem).  Luckily, there are writers whose clean language, pure logic, and persuasive arguments demand fewer words and more attention.  Read Shikha Dalmia.  (And while you’re at it, read The Black Commenter).
  • Michael Gerson is not a raving right-wing ideologue.  He is, however, very scared of where Attorney General Eric Holder is taking us as a country.  You should be, too.
  • I mean, the dude said “it depends” when asked if Osama bin Laden would be read his Miranda rights.  Seriously?  You don’t know this?  There isn’t already a 20-page memo on “what you will do if you capture Bin Laden?  We’ll decide when it happens?  Incredible.
  • Michael Franc gives us the scorecard on exactly how “moderate” these Democrats are, particularly on fiscal matters.  GOP candidates, start your engines.
  • And finally, our good friend Head Muscle shares his worthy insights on the two Koreas.  It’s a moving read, and it subtly explains why we conservatives fight the statist, totalitarian impulse with such vigor.  The world gives us — history gives us —  these irrefutable case studies, yet the theories (and the oppression) persist.

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This quote explains beautifully why no media bias, enemies list, journalist ban, or ugly slur will change the polls for Democrats:

You have not converted a man because you have silenced him.

— John Morley

(h/t Forbes Thought of the Day)

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One of the only fair defenses of the stimulus bill is its immediate psychological effect.  At the time it was passed, the nation was very, very scared. The general sense was that the government needed to “do something.”  Everyone knew that the new Democratic administration wasn’t about to cut taxes as a means of stimulating the economy. Thus, it was assumed that a huge fiscal stimulus – in the form of new spending – was needed, both to inject funds into stalled markets and to alleviate the sense of near-panic in the country.

While the stimulus has largely failed at kickstarting the business cycle, it did satisfy the “do something” impulse. The economic wound did not open further, although it did continue to bleed jobs. The next step, then, is to repair the wound.

In fact, let’s continue this medical analogy.   In the crucial first moments after a serious injury, furious activity is the norm.   Doctors work quickly to set bones, apply pressure, bandage cuts, or even conduct invasive surgery.  Once the trauma patient’s immediate crises are curtailed, however, she needs something very different: long periods of stability.  Rather than constant stimulation, she needs calm and rest.  While it may look like nothing is happening, the body’s forces are working to naturally heal itself.  No doctor can force a wound to close — it can only create the conditions whereby the body will do it on its own.  No doctor would ask a patient to learn a new job, or train for a marathon, while recovering from a serious accident.  And it’s mad scientists, not physicians, who experiment on patients on the mend.

Not my physician of choice.

The same lessons apply to our economy.  While the early days of last fall’s crash may have warranted emergency measures, the time for frantic maneuvers is long past.  Rather, this economy needs the government to step back and give it some time to heal.  Further poking, prodding, and experimentation only waste energy and resources when those are sorely needed by the economic “body” to replenish reserves, invest in capital improvements, and slowly rebuild inventories and workforces.  Businesses will not begin to recover until they know the assault is over.  And right now, they fear that Dr. Government is waiting right outside the door with another experimental procedure.


The twin spectres of costly health care mandates or greenhouse gas regulations have led companies that might have some cash on hand to hold onto it.  They might need those dollars to pay for higher health care costs, or to cover rising fuel prices.  International firms that might have seen a weak-dollar economy as a good place to invest are standing on the sidelines, wondering if the cost of doing business in America is about to skyrocket.  And small businesses deciding between hiring that next employee or saving for the next rainy day are being given every reason to put up the umbrella.

Bon Jovi agrees.

Stability, not activity, is what we need today.  That’s why the best thing our president could do for this economy — and even for his health care program — would be to call a 12-month regulatory truce.  No new rules for a year — including new regulatory programs like cap-and-trade or health care.  Now able to make economic decisions with some relative sense of certainty, Americans would regain confidence.  The dollar would rebound, businesses would react, and investors would reap the rewards.  It would send a strong signal to the markets that the mad scientist has been captured, and Dr. Obama is in.  It would also boost public confidence in the President, restoring their sense that he listens to their concerns and is willing to change course when the moment calls for it.  He wouldn’t even have to abandon his big-government aspirations — he’d just have to delay them.  And it wouldn’t cost him a dime.

Sounds like pretty good medicine to me.

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The House Ways and Means Committee confirmed today that the mandate provisions in Pelosicare will follow the form we’ve all expected: obey or go to jail.  While it’s an unconstitutional, brutal, and outrageous provision, it does crystallize the legal issues in a way the Senate bill does not.  These people have abandoned any pretense of addressing public concerns.  They want their power and they want it now.

For those who are following the mandate saga, there were some outstanding contributions to the debate in recent days:

See my previous commentary on the health insurance mandate here, here, and here.

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On the Marque, 11/4/09

A few worthy thoughts gathered from the internets:

  • Dan Gerstein of Forbes Magazine explores the makeup of the White House staff and the impact it may be having on the President’s performance.  Comprised primarily of what Gerstein quotes an insider to be “political hacks,” the staff’s tendency to fight, win, and be snarky when compromise, concession, or moderation might be the smarter play might explain a lot about Obama’s tin ear for the public mood.  Of course, it does beg the question – if your whole staff is made up of political consultants, shouldn’t they be able to win you either New Jersey or Virginia?
  • In the “truly creepy” department, I bring you the expanded list of honorific Obama song and dance routines from our nation’s schoolchildren, courtesy of Big Hollywood.  Easily the oddest lyric, although probably also the silliest and least-disturbing:

You don’t believe me, I hear you say
But Barack’s as Irish, as was JFK
His granddaddy’s daddy came from Moneygall
A small Irish village, well known to you all


  • In case this doesn’t give you enough night terrors about what your kids are larning in dem skools, the U.S. military would like to have a word with you.  They tell us that fully 75% of all Americans aged 17-24 are ineligible to join the Armed Forces.  Why?  They’re too fat, stupid, or corrupt.  Since a good proportion of those who are eligible will choose other career paths, this is an incredibly difficult challenge for military recruitment — either lower the standards for the greatest fighting force the world has ever seen, or spend more and more on recruitment to chase fewer and fewer worthy candidates.  And of course, the rest of us get to deal with the rejects.  Oh, goody.
  • Rich Lowry explains why Obama will ignore my recommendation to go to Berlin, calling it the “most telling nonevent of his presidency.”  I agree.  During her White House visit yesterday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel went out of her way to thank the American people for their support in the years leading up to German unification.  Our President responded by closing the press briefing.
  • Speaking of travel, Jay Nordlinger highlighted a comment by David Pryce-Jones regarding the emerging lefty tourist habit of the grand tour of Iran.  It’s so good, I hope Mr. Pryce-Jones will forgive my copying it wholesale here:

This anthology passage has come to mind several times recently in connection with present-day fellow-travellers visiting Iran in just that same spirit of willing self-deception. Here are advocates of human rights enthusing over the general happiness of Iranians even while disgusting crimes of murder and rape are routine in the prisons. Here are ecologists promoting windmills everywhere at home, obsessed with their carbon footprint while oblivious to the Iranian nuclear program. Socialists and Leftists in a permanent fury about American foreign policy have nothing to say about Iranian sponsorship of terror far and wide. Pacifists and aesthetes are so eager to see the splendours of Qom and Mashhad that they are oblivious to the Islamist Republic’s testing of long-range missiles and repeated threats to exterminate its enemies. Feminists eager to uncover gender discrimination in their own sphere respond to the plight of Iranian women by praising the attractive colours of their clothing. Tourism to Iran is apparently the latest fashion among rich Westerners, and they come back saying that the country is peaceful, prosperous, no danger to anyone but altogether a brilliant success. My dear, let’s meet up at Isfahan, you have to see those mosques.

History is riddled with examples of liberals exhibiting their moral superiority through brave acts of monied extravagance.  But it’s hard for me to understand why these politically-motivated tourist escapades would deliberately ignore severe human suffering and obvious government oppression.  Maybe sleeping mere minutes away from tortured political prisoners has a certain sort of thrill, but it must be reserved for those who feel thrills going up their legs when they hear President Obama speak.

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As you know, this blog has explored several ways whereby the proposed mandate that everyone obtain health insurance is unconstitutional.  Ignoring entirely the advice of this blog, the Senate Finance Committee reported out a bill that included a mandate, albeit a watered-down one.  In fact, it appears that any bill that will be voted on by Congress this fall will contain a mandate for individuals to obtain health insurance.  This begs the question – if a health insurance mandate is passed and signed by the President, what does it really matter?  Sure, Congress has pushed the envelope of constitutionality in the past, and rarely has it been struck down.  But isn’t this just an academic debate among legal eggheads?

Sadly, the answer is no.  Passing an unconstitutional health care mandate can only poison American politics, whether it survives a court challenge or not.  Let me explain why.

Nightmare Scenario I:  A Health Care Mandate Withstands Court Scrutiny

American jurisprudence is essentially a process of accretion. Accretion is a word used more frequently in geology, describing the layering of rock over the ages.  Imagine yourself standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon, staring at the wondrously colorful scene.  You see before you the dozens of layers of soil, rock, and sand that have been laid down, one upon the other, over centuries.  At the time each layer was established, those who were there to see it knew only of the layer being created, or of the layer beneath.  With a little work, they could dig slightly deeper to see one or two layers below that.  But they stood on all the layers that went before them, even if they never saw them.  They may have heard stories of them, or seen pictures, but they could not truly know the deepest rock upon which they stood.  And the same goes for you — though you stand on the top of all the layers laid bare by the Canyon, walk away and you will know only the rocks of yesterday, and the soils of today.

So it is with the law.  We like to think of philosophies like originalism and natural law as a harkening back to the way things used to be, but in many ways that’s not correct.  No serious legal thinker today advocates a return of U.S. law to the way it was at the time of our founding.  Sure, the concepts of checks and balances, separation of powers, federalism, and limited government spring from the constitutional well, and we would be wise to drink from it more often.  But while James Madison did not preconceive the Federal Communications Commission, he also couldn’t conceive of the telephone.  Jefferson’s dream of an agrarian society did not include ConAgra or ADM.  And while Lincoln’s vision for America included a transcontinental railroad stretching across the frontier, his imagination could not stretch as far as the moonshot at the center of JFK’s New Frontier.  This isn’t a pitch for a “living constitution,” but it is a recognition that the very things we consider America’s greatest achievements have always forced America’s political leaders to adjust the structure of our government to fit the circumstances.


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Perhaps the most amazing thing to me about President Obama’s popularity tailspin is how easy it would be for him to get out of it.  People still like the guy (although that may be changing, as well) — they just don’t like his policies, and they don’t think he’s listening to them.  Any one of the following five things would improve his political standing, at virtually no political cost to him:

  • Say he won’t be closing Guantanamo – yet. This is obvious to all involved, but his team’s continued insistence that he’s working toward his one-year deadline runs against the grain of most Americans (55% oppose the move, 33% support it) and makes him look silly.  Conservatives would hail this as a win, and liberals would frown that their man has gone soft.  But this isn’t a change of mind, it’s just a change of timeline — and a recognition of reality.  Behind the scenes, his team could still try to find a way out of the mess, without giving opponents the talking point.  Far better to take this “loss” now than in January when his promise comes due – and he can still close the prison at any time.  Isn’t this just the pragmatic, non-ideological perspective for which Americans elected him last November?
  • End the intelligence inquisition. Most observers believe that the Administration’s continued assault on the CIA was much more about Eric Holder than Barack Obama.  It was a wildcat move by an Attorney General whose allegiances lie with the left wing.  The President has laid the groundwork for this — he’s already said we need to look forward, not backward, and he has never explicitly endorsed Holder’s escapade.  This would come a little late, but it would show the public that he’s not beholden to his base and can openly disagree with his team — something Bush never could seem to do.  Would the Left be furious?  Maybe, but this fight is so 2008, and it’s not the kind of thing you want hanging over Democrats’ heads going into a tough 2010 midterm election.  Make that double for any actual prosecutions of CIA employees, so there’s really no upside to pursuing this.  There’s plenty of upside for ending it.
  • Go to Berlin on November 12th. Make a speech (he’s good at that).  Say only good things about America.  Say nice things about Ronald Reagan and Jack Kennedy.  Walk through the Brandenburg Gate.  Speak out against tyranny and oppression.  Speak harshly about Communism.  Take credit (on behalf of his country) for helping to end it.  Recommit to the defense of Europe, and call on them to help us defend the free peoples of the rest of the world.  Americans love this stuff.  No one will criticize it (except the Russians, and they don’t vote).  Everyone will say it’s a change of tone.  It will distract people from the drudgery of health care, et. al. Not doing this will get noticed, to his detriment, I believe.
  • Set a deadline and keep it against Iran. Ahmadenijad is America’s boogeyman of the moment – and he’s earned it.  There is absolutely nothing redeeming about the guy, and there is no constituency in this country for coddling him and his regime.  Obama has spoken much about the need to use diplomacy to solve the situation in Iran.  To date, his understanding of diplomacy has meant ignoring a rigged election and brutal oppression; setting deadlines and watching them float by without consequence; and revealing knowledge of duplicity but showing no interest in punishing it.  He’s earned his nice guy bona fides.  No one doubts he wants to solve this thing without firing a shot.  But that sets him up perfectly to deliver a stemwinder against the most hated man on the globe.  Obama’s stern speech can set one last deadline, leaving the door open for progress on our timetable — but if Iran blows it, he’s got Congress to back him up.  Obama looks strong; his buddies in Europe can’t help but fall in line.  In short, the trap is set — the only question is, is Obama building a trap or a dollhouse?
  • Publicly retrench on some element of health care reform. It’s no secret that the American public is both fatalistic and incredibly concerned about the President’s health care agenda.  He’s overpromised, overspent, and underdelivered.  But the Democrats are convinced that if they do not pass their behemoth of a public health care regime now, they will never get another chance.  I disagree – a well-designed, publicly-supported program that will pass is likely to entrench the Democrats as the “health care party” for a long time to come, giving them other opportunities to improve upon their program (assuming it works, of course).  Within the health care polling, there is an emerging path for success that scares me to death, but would save the day for the Administration.  Let’s build it from the ground up, using the great polling data from Rasmussen Reports.  The public wants more private sector competition, and they are OK with a public option that improves such competition.  They aren’t OK with a Trojan Horse public option aimed at overtaking the private sector.  People also hate the idea of forcing people to buy health care, but everyone agrees that without getting the “young invincibles” into the health insurance market, costs will go up.  Americans are more concerned with cost control than they are universal coverage.  Taking these issues together, Obama presents a new way forward.  He publicly takes a government-run public option off the table.  He then says he will only support a bill with a non-profit or member-run plan that subsidizes care on a sliding scale basis — essentially an expansion of Medicaid up to an income limit where someone could easily participate in the insurance market.  He then says that participation in the non-profit plan or some other employer-provided plan will be mandatory for all individuals who receive federal aid (in the form of student loans, grants, housing assistance, etc.).  Obama also states that anyone who is uninsured who receives care at a public hospital will automatically be enrolled in the plan, and the government will pay for her first instance of care.  That takes the sting out of the mandate — suddenly, the only people who are forced to participate are the ones who take taxpayer funds.  Now, you’ve got a public option that appears to be out of the government’s hands.  And Obama’s mandate shift will have placed the onus of the mandate on those who are already government’s “takers,” not “givers.”  And perhaps most importantly, the President would show that he’s willing to take charge and make changes in response to public concerns.  The rest of the plan — the guaranteed issue, the taxes, the Medicare cuts, the rationing – would remain.  Nothing could be more positive for the Obama Administration.  And nothing would be more harmful for the future of the country.

To quote our President’s favorite phrase, let me be clear: I have no desire for this President to recover his popularity.  While some of these changes are things I would favor in isolation, together they would give great momentum to an agenda that would threaten our future.  But I also have no expectation that this White House could bring itself to make these minor course corrections in service of their larger goals.  And thus, this nation’s fragile promise lives on.

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Today’s theme is quality time:

  • A high school teacher in Alexandria writes a moving, yet troubling, article in Sunday’s Washington Post, exploring why his students are about to graduate without an education (hint: it’s missing fathers and busy mothers).  The immutable, bracing tragedy of it all comes flying at you from the first sentence.  How is THIS not a national crisis worthy of a national debate?  One reason — the side on which the truth lies is out of bounds for polite discussion.
  • One provocative opinion on why we spend less time with our kids these days comes from And Now You Know: it’s taxes.  I’m still thinking about how much I agree with the post — could we instead be working for lifestyle more than taxes?  are our kids merely entertaining themselves in more solitary ways? — but the fact that I’ve thought about it for a good day or two means it’s worth a look.
  • Harkening back to yesterday’s post (a record day at the Letters, by the way – thanks to all who stopped by), Power Line tells us that President Obama has turned down Germany’s invitation to join its celebration of the fall of the Berlin Wall.  I’m surprised – I thought the guy was all about striking Reaganesque and Kennedyesque poses.  This Administration is willing to make a trip across the Atlantic for four and half hours of wooing Olympic officials but unwilling to party with a key ally as it remembers the epic moment of its national reunion.  Apparently all Obama wanted out of Berlin was its votes?

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The word of the day is “decline”:

  • If you read nothing else for the rest of the year about the Obama presidency and the direction it is taking the country, read Krauthammer in this week’s Weekly Standard.  No, really – go read it.  I’ll wait.
  • Riffing on Krauthammer’s theme, Mark Steyn dishes up lugubrious drollery as only he can.
  • Introducing America to the term “downward mobility,” Robert Samuelson reminds us that Obama is, to turn a phrase, taking his eye off the ball when he tries to reform health care.  He finishes with this killer: “Some call this “reform”; no one should call it progress.”
  • And despite all the talk of regression, there is still a bull market for the President’s self-regard.

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As many have noted, it is hilarious and stunning that our President was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize when he had been in office 11 days, and that he won it without any major international accomplishment to his credit. But consider how President Obama and Democrats have treated his fellow honorees and their most-beloved causes and countries.

The Dalai Lama

This week, President Obama declined to meet with Tibet’s Dalai Lama when he was in Washington, the first time a President has failed to meet with His Holiness during a visit to the United States. While the White House has publicly stated that this was a mutual decision based on scheduling difficulties, observers have widely speculated that this was an effort to appease China in advance of President Obama’s visit there in November. China, of course, is the very government that has oppressed the Dalai Lama’s Tibetan people, and from which he has sought relief and freedom for his entire life while living in exile. The Dalai Lama won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for this peaceful and nonviolent struggle.

Aung San Suu Kyi

For months, Senator Jim Webb has sought to aggrandize the Burmese government and lift sanctions that the United States have imposed since 2003.  President Obama blessed Webb’s recent visit to Burma, has done nothing to dissuade his Democratic colleague from his efforts, and his State Department issued visas upon Sen. Webb’s request that allowed Burmese representatives into the country last month (for a hearing where he refused to allow opponents to speak). Burma, of course, is the home of Aung San Suu Kyi, who won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize “for her nonviolent struggle for democracy and human rights.” Burma has held Kyi under house arrest for years in retaliation for her efforts to free her people. When Sen. Webb visited her earlier this year, he emerged from the conference to say that Kyi supported his efforts wholeheartedly.  Burmese activists have strongly disputed this account, and Kyi herself has graciously avoided conflict with Webb while affirming her opposition to the junta.  Meanwhile, the Obama Administration has signaled that it may be willing to lift sanctions against Burma.

Elie Wiesel

President Obama toured Buchenwald with Elie Wiesel in June of this year. During their visit, Wiesel slammed those who hadn’t learned from the Holocaust, and specifically called on the President to bring “a sense of security for Israel, a sense of security for its neighbors,” clearly invoking the Holocaust denials and threats issued by Iran’s Ahmedinejad. But rather than create that sense of security, President Obama has taken no steps to protect Israel or its neighbors from Iran’s growing nuclear threat. Instead, he has demanded that Israel stop expanding into territories it won in a war waged to bring about its destruction. Indeed, his representatives have met face to face with Iranian diplomats, engaging in direct diplomacy with a government that promises the world that Israel will be “wiped off the map.” Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986.

Shirin Ebadi

When President Ahmedinejad was up for reelection in June 2009, there was not much hope among international observers that there would be real change in that country. Even if Ahmedinejad had lost the election, his opponent Mir Hossain Mousavi was believed to be just a different face for the theocratic radicals that rule behind the scenes. But no one could have anticipated the populist uprising that would demand true democracy, human rights, and the end of the Islamic Revolution.  During those transformative weeks, Mousavi became a champion for democracy, women in scarves and burqas were at the forefront of street protests and demonstrations, and young men and women thronged in the boulevards of Tehran, shouting not “Death to America!” but “Death to the dictator!.”  An Iranian woman, Neda Agha-Soltan, was shot by the Basij, and the video of her death became the symbol of the protests.  Ultimately, police and armed militias arrested or killed hundreds of protesters and ended the immediate threat to the government by force.

Shirin Ebadi won the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize “for her efforts for democracy and human rights” in Iran.  As the Nobel Committee noted, “[s]he has focused especially on the struggle for the rights of women and children.”  Long a target of the Iranian regime and its surrogates, Ebadi called for new elections during the post-election strife, and she has not been able to return to her country since.  She has criticized the West for placing nuclear negotiations ahead of demands for human rights and democracy, saying that “[u]ndemocratic countries are more dangerous than a nuclear bomb. It’s undemocratic countries that jeopardise international peace.”  Rather than a strengthening of relations, she has called for “the downgrading of Western embassies, the withdrawal of ambassadors and the freezing of the assets of Iran’s leaders.”  The Obama Administration, on the other hand, took days to state that the election was fraudulent, and more to say that its fraud was significant.  In the weeks and months since, it has initiated direct negotiations with Ahmedinejad’s government, with no apparent repercussions for his fraudulent election or the violent oppression of Iran’s people.

So I ask: How can President Obama stand next to these courageous Nobel laureates, wearing the same prize given to Linas Pauling, George Marshall, Lech Walesa, and Mother Teresa, and feel worthy of the award?

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